Sarah Coles

King of Colour – Edinburgh

Margot says you must see Kaffe Fassett at the Dovecot!  Kaffe Fassett?  It rings a bell, yes, at Alf and Niki’s wedding he and another gay man admired the jacket I was wearing.  It was faded black cotton, embroidered with pale yellow suns that I’d bought at a market in Dali, China for 20 dollars.  I was pleased at the compliment but when he introduced himself I’d never heard of Kaffe Fassett, quilter, embroiderer extraordinaire.  Since then I have, and wish I had talked and asked more.  So now in Edinburgh, off to the Dovecot.  On the walls are dozens of brilliant quilts, I am stunned!  I go snap, snap, snap, and here they are.

There’s also some clothing, not really so fetching, I’d never wear them.  Some are by Kaffe, and others by various women, and I did not make a note of which were which.

Of the people in the Dovecot, and there were many, every one was a woman.  I think, today men’s dress is drab, greys and browns and duns and fawn and dark maroon.  Yes, black tie is chic and good, but when you think of Louis Quartorze in frills and high heels, or Tudor courtiers with ruffs and garters, or painters like Matisse or Monet, no way do only women adore colour!  Why not get all the men who are not into repairing machines and cars and clocks into quilting, and embroidery and the like.

One quilt by Kitty Sargon was Hedge of Protection, a magic spell created to protect her family during the Covid years.  In fact, her more beautiful one (not here) was a shimmer quilt which seemed to dazzle though not a shiny scrap was used.  Apparently her children had grown and she was all alone until her son sent her to a quilting class.  Soon she was teaching.  She went to Norway, the Aleutian islands and Kenya, where she taught quilting in a remote village at the foot of Mount Kenya.  Kaffe Fassett gave her fabric scraps to use.

Some of Fassett’s elaborate rose patterns of near similar colours are shown mapped on paper.  (He’s the only man around!)

Change my mind, and think yes, I’ll have a couple of these coats for opera going.

I left, and thought how Ma would have loved this.   She was so nimble fingered in all crafts, she had the gift, and she made quilts from of all the leftovers of her dress making, always hexagons which fitted together like cells in a honey comb.  How she could have spread her wings!

An exhibition worthy of a major gallery, but no, it will never achieve that status.  It’s craft, it’s still ‘women’s work’, it’s too niche.

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